Stephen Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Sanitation is paramount when administering implants for beef cattle. Manure, dirt and bacteria must be removed and a disinfectant solution should be applied to the implant injection site area of the ear. Growth implant efficacy and return on investment decreases if an abscess forms because of unsanitary practices. In one study, average daily gains were decreased 8.9% (3.18 versus 2.92 pounds) and feed efficiency decreased 8.5% (5.62 versus 6.14 pounds of feed per pound of gain) by abscessed growth implants.

A number of years ago a method called “scrape, brush and disinfect” was introduced to raise the awareness of ear sanitation prior to implanting by cattle processing personnel. Make an initial assessment of ear surface cleanliness.

  • If the ear is clean and dry, the implant is administered.
  • If the ear is dirty (wet or dry), a dulled steak knife is used to scrape foreign material from the ear prior to brushing the ear with disinfectant solution and implant administration.
  • If the ear is wet, but contains no foreign material, it is brushed and disinfectant solution and the implant given. The type of brush used to clean and disinfect the ears is two-sided with brass bristles on one side and nylon bristles on the other. When the brush is not in use, it is placed in a small bucket of disinfectant solution.

Choice of disinfectant is extremely important for effective control against microorganisms. The EPA licenses Chlorhexidine acetate. Some operations coat the cleaned implanting needle with an approved, non-irritating antibiotic between animals as an additional safeguard to help prevent implant site infections. Consult your veterinarian about the selection, dilution, and use of a disinfectant.

It is important to visually inspect and physically palpate the implant site after the implant is administered to ensure the implant is properly placed and all the pellets in the pelleted implants are properly aligned. As part of the inspection, the implant needle opening should be closed by pressing down on the hole (with a clean hand/glove). Most of the problems with implant guns can be avoided by following the manufacturer’s directions.

Sources:
D. ZoBell, C. Chapman, K. Heaton, and C. Birkelo. 2000. Beef Cattle Implants. Utah State University. AG-509.
D. Griffin and T. Mader. 1997. Beef Cattle Implant Update. University of Nebraska Publication No. G97-1324-A